“It’s a good thing he has an element of mystery to you, otherwise you would try to manipulate him.” My spiritual director said this to me when I was deciding if I should marry Mike. My director’s words were wise. My constant need for more knowledge was actually a dangerous hunger for control. I wanted to know everything about how Mike was wired before I married him, because then there would be no surprises. I would be in control. The problem was, I was marrying a living human being, not a machine.
God brought those same words back to my mind as we’ve been trying to have a child. No matter how much progress we have made in science, there is still so much mystery as to how a child is conceived. When we do the math, the odds tell us we should have a baby by now. I desperately want to know why it is not working. Is that not the story of motherhood? Parents can do everything right, follow the rules perfectly, but there is always mystery. Children are not meant to be controlled. They are to be nurtured. If we knew everything about them, then that temptation to manipulate would be that much stronger.
From the very moment life begins, there is mystery.
The same is true with God. Richard Foster writes that, with God, “we are entering into a living relationship that begins and develops in mutual freedom. God grants us perfect freedom because he desires creatures who freely choose to be in relationship with him. Through (prayer) we are learning to give God the same freedom. Relationships of this kind can never be manipulated or forced.”*
God is not a machine. I will never know why he chooses to answer some prayers and not others. I love that he is safe and good and I can tell him everything. I love that he sometimes changes his mind when I pray.** And I am learning to love his mystery. For it is that mystery that prevents me from trying to control God. It is that mystery that reminds me that God is living, and that the freedom in our relationship goes two-ways.
What are some areas of your life where you are hungering for control? Spend a few minutes pondering the mystery of God. How might that mystery actually be a gift to you?
*Richard J. Foster, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home (New York, New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 1992), 19.